Comic Book Review: The All New Atom #3

The Revolution still isn’t sold on this All New Atom after the first two issues. I think this title has plenty of potential. For it to earn a place on my permanent pull list, I need to see a lot more depth in Ryan’s personality. Let’s see if Atom #3 can get me to change my mind.

Creative Team
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: John Byrne
Inker: Trevor Scott

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: This issue begins with the mysterious man talking to Mr. Rundine who is putting on his new costume. Mr. Rundine is the new Dwarfstar. (Pretty much an evil version of the Atom.)

We then cut to the Atom in the sewer system confronting the bizarre creature named M’Nagalah. M’Nagalah proceeds introduce himself and explain that he is the creator of everything on Earth. That all questions about the universe all lead back to M’Nagalah. He is known as the Cancer God. (That can’t be a good thing.) M’Nagalah tells the Atom that he needs the Atom to join him in an upcoming battle between magic and science. M’Nagalah wants the Atom to leave the side of Science and join Team Magic. As appealing as this sounds, the Atom declines to join M’Nagalah and makes a quick escape. On his way out of that part of the sewer, the Atom runs across the alien invaders. The Atom then engages in fisticuffs with the alien rapscallions. The Atom emerges victorious.

We shift to Ryan meeting with Panda and Dr. Kettering about what Ryan just experienced in the sewer system. Ryan shows them poof of his story: a partial drive that you can hold in your hand. We then fast forward many hours later and our science dorks are busy designing various miniature sized weapons for the Atom. Ryan suddenly realizes that he is late for his first class and makes a break for the classroom.

We see Ryan running down the hall in the Science Building. The student from last issue that gave him his number spies Ryan and makes another pass at him. A fellow teacher then chases off the student. The teacher, Professor Zuel, is a big woman and she promptly throws Ryan against the wall and begins shoving her tongue down his throat. (Well, we all know that Doris Zuel is Giganta. Unfortunately, Ryan does not seem privy to this information.) Zuel then tells Ryan that she will pick him up at 7 tonight for their date. A stunned Ryan stumbles to his classroom where he is greeted by indifferent college students who are just in school to party and waste their parents’ money. (Yup. That was pretty much me in college.)

We cut to Ryan on his date with Professor Zuel at a drive-in movie. Professor Zuel proceeds to start making out with Ryan. During their high school style make out session, Ryan notices some weird boils on Professor Zuel’s back. Suddenly, Professor Zuel grows to a gigantic size and it is Giganta time! Giganta tells Ryan that the Cancer God says hello. Ryan turns into the Atom and gets Atom-sized. Giganta then grabs the Atom and places him inside what looks like a plastic ball that gashapon come in. (I love gashapon. I wish I was in Japan right now.) Giganta then swallows the plastic ball with the Atom inside it. (I don’t think that is how Ryan wanted to “get inside” of Professor Zuel.)

We then see a bunch of followers of M’Nagalah arrive at the drive-in. They are all dressed like pilgrims. They praise the Cancer God’s greatness. (This was an odd scene that didn’t really make any sense at all.)

We then cut to Panda arriving at his house. He kisses his poster of Power Girl hello. (Yeah, if I was reduced to the pathetic state of having to make out with a poster of a girl, it sure wouldn’t be Power Girl. Wonder Woman all the way. Accept no substitutes.) Unfortunately for Panda, Dwarfstar is waiting for him in his house. Dwarfstar pulls a knife on Panda. End of issue.

The Good: I think that Simone is starting to get her sea legs on this title. Slowly, but surely, the stories are getting better and better. Atom #3 was the best issue so far. Simone is gradually starting to flesh out Ryan’s character more. There is no doubt that Ryan has been written to be extremely likeable from the very start. Perhaps too likeable. In this issue, Simone is able to give Ryan a little more depth to his personality so that he doesn’t seem so one-dimensional like a protagonist from a shonen manga. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ryan. I just want to see more depth in his personality and something more than a smile and a “gee whiz” comment. I believe that with this issue, Simone is finally getting to that point. Ryan flashed his serious side when dealing with M’Nagalah and showed that he has a cool and quick thinking mind under pressure.

I thought that Simone delivered her best dialogue with this issue. The dialogue was quick, funny and playful. It made Atom #3 quite an enjoyable read.

The opening scene was cool. Simone treats us to an evil version of the Atom named Dwarfstar. I can’t wait to find out who the mysterious benefactor of Dwarfstar and what he is planning.

The scene between the Atom and M’Nagalah was well done. This scene does a good job developing Ryan’s personality. We see his tougher side refusing to show any fear to the Cancer God. I am interested by Simone’s plans for an upcoming conflict between the forces of magic and the forces of science. DC has really been building up this new world of Magic in the DCU in several of their titles like Trials of Shazam, Shadowpact and 52. Now we see it in the Atom. I think this is a pretty interesting plotline and I like that Ryan, being a man of Science, is being recruited to join the forces of Magic. This scene was fun to read thanks to Simone’s humorous dialogue.

I liked the scene with Ryan, Panda and Dr. Kettering trying to invent various micro-sized weapons for the Atom. This is a great idea and should provide for some cool gadgets and exciting action scenes. I don’t remember Ray Palmer ever attempting to do this. Maybe he did. Either way, this is a neat plotline.

The scene with Ryan sexually harassed by Professor Zuel was pretty funny. At first, I thought it was a bit forced, but when it turned out to be nothing more than bait to set a trap for the Atom, it made total sense. Ryan’s stunned reaction to Zuel manhandling him was classic. I also thought the bit with Ryan dealing with his apathetic students was hilarious! Who doesn’t go to college with the desire to get drunk and waste their parents’ money? I liked that Ryan pegged his students right from the start.

The scene with Giganta and the Atom at the drive-in movie was nice. Revealing that Giganta is under the mind control of the Cancer God was a nice twist. And Giganta’s method of capturing the Atom by placing him in a plastic ball and then swallowing it had a neat silver-age feel to it.

Again, Simone manages to end the issue with a nice hook by having Panda at the mercy of Dwarfstar’s murderous intent. It certainly got me interested in the next issue.

I think that Simone flashed her talent for crafting entertaining dialogue with a nice sense of humor. Simone’s dialogue made this a fun issue. And that leads me to my overall impression of Simone’s Atom. It is simply a fun comic book. The Atom has a wonderful silver age zaniness to it that makes it a fun title to read. There are very few titles on the market that are looking to invoke that silver age feeling with their storylines.

With the third issue, Simone is starting to mix in several very interesting plotlines. The war between science and magic and why the Atom’s role is so pivotal. The mysterious benefactor of Dwarfstar. Plus, the aliens attack force that is infiltrating Earth. Not too mention the possibility of new gadgets for the Atom. All of these plotlines are engaging and get me to return for the next issue.

The Bad: I’m not sold on M’Nagalah, yet. I usually dislike ambiguous cosmic entities who claim to have created the universe and or the Earth. They usually are accompanied by a bunch of pseudo science, philosophy and mysticism dialogue that reads like an uninteresting and confusing mess of words. Maybe Simone can make the Cancer God the exception to the rule and get me interested in his character.

The only scene I didn’t really enjoy was the one with the Cancer God’s followers dressed up as pilgrims at the drive-in movie. It was oddly placed into the story and was disjointed and confusing. I wasn’t too sure what the purpose of this scene was.

The one area that Simone could improve upon would be the general flow of the story and the transitions between scenes. The general flow of this issue is choppy and jerky. There are several scenes that are quite short and don’t seem necessary. Like the three panel scene with Ryan at his house between the scene with him realizing he was late for class and the scene with him in the science building rushing to his classroom. The three panel scene had him going home and petting the homeless dog that has taken up residence at his house and then had Ryan lying on his bed. It broker up the flow of the story and was an unnecessary scene.

The transitions between scenes are also rather awkward and break up the flow of the story. Well written transitions should just blend into the background for the reader. If properly done, the reader shouldn’t even know how many scene transitions there were in the issue. Or the reader should have the impression that there weren’t that many since they were so smooth and not noticeable. However, the transitions in this issue are so uncoordinated that they stand out and leave the reader with the feeling that the issue was littered with numerous scenes and transitions.

I was not very impressed with Byrne’s artwork. I loved his art back in the 1980’s, but I find myself less than enthused about his work in this title. It seems a bit rushed and sloppy. Plus, Byrne draws Ryan like he is 18 years old. It just doesn’t work for me.

Overall: The Atom #3 was a pretty darn good read. Simone is starting to his her stride on this title. Being a fan of Pay Palmer, I was as skeptical about this all new Atom as anyone. However, I am a firm believer that if you write a good story then you will get my money regardless of who plays the role of the hero. The Atom still hasn’t made it to the Revolution’s permanent pull list, but it is getting closer.

I’d certainly recommend this title to anyone who enjoys silver age style storylines. If you like comics that are more “fun” than “dark” and “violent” then the Atom is definitely for you.